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Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Spring 2019, Vol. 19, Issue 2

ENRICHING OUR NATION’S HISTORY: ESTABLISHING A HISTORICAL EXCEPTION TO GRAND JURY SECRECY

By Daniel Aronsohn*

Introduction

The grand jury is indispensable in its role as the guardian against unwarranted prosecutions. But it is much more than that. The grand jury is a historical archive. As the mechanism for criminal indictment, the institution of the grand jury has confronted exceptional events of vast historical import. What occurs before a grand jury, however, is generally protected by a longstanding tradition of secrecy.1 Under the general rule of secrecy, the public is unable to access grand jury materials regardless of the proffered reason.2

The inability to access grand jury information can be a considerable loss to society. With their expansive power to investigate and accuse, grand juries provide a wealth of information. It is essential that the public gain access to that information for two principal reasons. First, enhancing the historical record is paramount.3 Second, improving public access to grand jury information ensures transparency of the federal government, a valuable notion in democratic government. History can provide real-life insight into the successes of American government in addition to its missteps.

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